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Acontias wakkerstroomensis CONRADIE, BUSSCHAU & EDWARDS, 2018

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Higher TaxaScincidae, Acontinae; Scincoidea, Sauria, Squamata (lizards)
Common NamesE: Wakkerstroom Legless Skink 
SynonymAcontias wakkerstroomensis CONRADIE, BUSSCHAU & EDWARDS 2018
Acontias breviceps — FITZSIMONS 1943 (part)
Acontias breviceps — BROADLEY & GREER 1969 (part)
Acontias breviceps — BRANCH 1988 (part)
Acontias breviceps — BRANCH 1994 (part)
Acontias breviceps — BRANCH 1998 (part)
Acontias breviceps — BATES et al. 2014 (part) 
DistributionRepublic of South Africa (Mpumalanga)

Type locality: north of Wakkerstroom on Amersfoort road, Mpumalanga, South Africa (-27.28250 S 30.11750 E, 2730AC, 1847 m elevation)  
TypesHolotype: PEM R22788, collected by Werner Conradie, Christa Conradie and Melt Morrison on 23 December 2015. Paratype: NMB R08611, north of Wakkerstroom on Amersfoort road, Mpumalanga, South Africa (-27.28250 S 30.1175 E, 2730AC, 1847 m asl) collected by Michael Cunningham on 29 September 2000. 
DiagnosisDiagnosis. A medium sized legless skink assigned to the genus Acontias (part) based on body being moderately attenuate, snout not strongly acutely angled, movable eyelids present, lower eyelid immovable, and overall genetic placement (Lamb et al. 2010). Distinguished from A. jappi, A. kgalagadi, A. lineatus (previously included in Typhlosaurus), and A. schmitzi in possessing moveable eyelids. It can be distinguished from other congeners possessing moveable eyelids by: ventral pigmentation concentrated at the posterior margins of the scales, giving a checkered appearance (all species except A. breviceps and A. albigularis sp. nov.), compared to dorsally and ventrally uniform (A. plumbeus, A. occidentalis (part)) or no ventral pigmentation (A. gracilicauda, A. meleagris complex, A. lineacauda, A. occidentalis (part), A. namaquensis, and A. percivali). It differs from A. albigularis sp. nov. by having ventral pigmentation, which is present from head to tail tip (vs unpigmented throat and cloacal region); higher number of average scales around midbody (16 scales vs 14 in A. albigularis sp. nov.). It has a near identical ventral pigmentation and the same number of average midbody scale rows (16) as A. breviceps, but differs by having a lower number of average ventral sales (151 vs 162); higher number of average subcaudal scales (37 vs 32); second upper labial touching the eye more frequently (40% vs 5%); large allopatric distribution (A. breviceps is restricted to the Eastern Cape Province vs southern Mpumalanga); slightly lower average body vertebrae (70 vs 73); slightly higher average tail vertebrae (24 vs 22). In the phylogenetic analysis, it is sister to A. gracilicauda, from which it differs by 2.4 ± 0.6 % (16S mtDNA) and 3.3 ± 0.6 % (Cytb mtDNA) sequence divergence. It further differs 6.7 ± 1.2% (16S) and 7.3 ± 0.9 % (Cytb) from A. breviceps, and 2.1 ± 0.8 % (16S) and 3.6 ± 0.9 % (Cytb) from A. albigularis sp. nov. 
CommentHabitat. The two voucher type specimens were found under rocks in flat grasslands. Two further specimens were found on top of Ossewakop outside the town of Wakkerstroom at an altitude of 2140 m. The exact localities of the Kastrol Nek and Farm Paardeplaats records are unknown, but are believed to also be associated with grasslands. 
EtymologyThe new species is named after Wakkerstroom, which is a very small village situated in the south of Mpumalanga. The name is Afrikaans in origin and translates literally to ‘Awake-stream’. Wakkerstroom is well known by birders for its excellent birding. 
  • Bates, M.F.; Branch, W.R., Bauer, A.M.; Burger, M., Marais, J.; Alexander, G.J. & de Villliers, M.S. (eds.) 2014. Atlas and Red List of the Reptiles of South Africa, Lesotho, and Swaziland. Suricata 1. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria, 512 pp.
  • Branch, W. R. 1998. Field Guide to the Snakes and Other Reptiles of Southern Africa. 3rd ed. Fully Revised and Updated to Include 83 New Species. Ralph Curtis Books (Sanibel Island, Florida), 399 pp.
  • Branch, W.R. 1994. Field Guide to Snakes and Other Reptiles of Southern Africa. 2nd Edition. Struik, Cape Town, 327 pp
  • Branch,W.R. 1988. Field Guide to the snakes and other reptiles of southern Africa. Struik Publishers, Cape Town, 328 pp.
  • Broadley, D. G. and Greer, A. E. 1969. A revision of the genus Acontias Cuvier (Sauria: Scincidae). Arnoldia Rhodesia 4 (26): 1-29.
  • CONRADIE, WERNER; THEO BUSSCHAU, SHELLEY EDWARDS 2018. Two new species of Acontias (Acontinae, Scincidae) from the Mpumalanga Highveld escarpment of South Africa. Zootaxa 4429 (1): 89-106 - get paper here
  • CONRADIE, WERNER; WILLIAM R. BRANCH, & GILLIAN WATSON 2019. Type specimens in the Port Elizabeth Museum, South Africa, including the historically important Albany Museum collection. Part 2: Reptiles (Squamata). Zootaxa 4576 (1): 001–045 - get paper here
  • FitzSimons, V.F. 1943. The lizards of South Africa. Transvaal Museum Memoir No.1 (Pretoria), 528 pp.
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